Hearts On Our Sleeves

Since 2016, I embarked on a portrait project called “Hearts on Our Sleeves, gender expansive community in America”.

While we have made strides in equality and human rights, trans people are still being ostracized, and crude demonizing caricature of trans people is used by politicians to advance divisive agendas. The homicide and suicide rates for trans people, especially among teens, are much higher than average.

People born in bodies that don’t match their brain’s gender, people who don’t adhere to binary archetypes, and people who are intersex. They are members of the gender expansive community. They come from all walks of life, and want to live a good life like everyone else. Some recently transitioned, some a long time ago, and some are just comfortable being gender non-binary. They know who they really are, despite those who might want to dictate who they should be.

This project was started in 2016 when the rhetoric of “bathroom issues” thrusted the transgender human and civil right issues to the forefront of American psyche. The goal of the project is to tell their stories. By using 4×5 cameras, I can spend time to connect with the subjects and learn their stories. These stories of marginalized people need to be told, and be told in a respectful manner.

Below are some sample images and their stories. Also, here is a link to a slightly outdated slideshow showing more of the images and (expanded) stories: http://richardman.photo/PICS/HeartsOnOurSleeves-Portfolio/

Blake (2018) Blake transitioned a few years ago with loving support from his family and friends. He is very active in the LBGTQ community, volunteering for many events.
Ward (2018) It’s complicated. Ward is AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) and gay, and his alter ego is gender-queer and mother to two adult children.
Cheri (2017) When I photographed Cheri, they did not know whether they want to identify as male or female, or gender non-binary, or whatever. All they know is that they “do not want these breasts”.
Lance (2016) Lance transitioned over 20 years ago. There are many legal and personal obstacles for transgender people and Lance is very active in the trans community, trying to make life easier for other trans people. He received a community service award from the City of San Jose in 2017 for his work.
Nikolai (2017) After divorcing with his wife just a year after marriage even though they had been together for over 10 years, and falling into depression, Nikolai realized that he is transgender. When I took this photo, he just had his first T injection, indicated by the medical band on his wrist. Coming out as a lesbian teenager in Arizona had not been easy, and coming out second time as transgender is no less difficult, even in California. He frequently has people misgendering him.
Brian and Marnie (2018) They were a lesbian couple 20+ years ago, when Brian decided to transition. They figured that it would be worth a try to stay together despite the change. They did and they are still very much in love. Love conquers all.

Jeremie (2018) Growing up in India where the Hijras are considered as the “third gender”, Jeremie found it hard to conform to a single gender. Jeremie is happy with the body they have, and enjoy amateur ballet.

Lina (2018) When I first met Lina, she was wearing a 30 lbs frog-head helmet on her head as part of her cosplay. She is much happier since transitioning 4-5 years ago, and she found acceptance in the anime and cosplay communities.

BJ (2016) BJ was born intersex. The doctor said “it’s easier to remove bits than add things”, so BJ grew up as female despite having a stocky physique, going as far as playing high school football as a girl. Biology caught up with him in his 20s and his body began to shut down until he had corrective surgery. BJ is a lawyer, spending 20% of his time working pro bono on children’s cases. The rule is that the kids can play with the toys they can reach on the shelves and he has a couple cases of toys.

Andry (2019) Andry had male and female lovers. Assigned female at birth, they wore dresses for cosplay and at Victorian fair events. Suffering from gender dysphoria, in 2017, they decided that they are trans-androgynous. In late 2018, they finally had the “top” surgery. They still wear dresses at times when they feel like it, rocking the androgynous lifestyle.